BELLEVILLE — Belleville East coach Tim Funk expects to get East St. Louis' best shot when his Lancers play host to the Flyers at 1 p.m. Saturday.
East Side has dropped three of its first four games, including two in a row to Edwardsville and O'Fallon in the Southwestern Conference, and has little remaining wiggle room in its bid to make the postseason.
"On film, they're very, very good," Funk said of coach Darren Sunkett's Flyers. "They've got good athletes at all spots, they're really, really big up front and they play physical. They've made some mistakes at inopportune times ... that might have cost them a football game or two.
"But boy, they can move the ball and they've got a lot of weapons. They're on the verge of getting better."
Today's game: East St. Louis (1-3 overall, 0-2 SWC) at Belleville East (2-2, 1-1).
Last meeting: The Flyers downed the Lancers 21-7 on Sept. 15, 2012, in Belleville as Greg Taylor scored three touchdowns.
Lancers look to rebound: East's game last week at Belleville West started poorly and only got worse. The Lancers, who trailed 21-0 in the first quarter and lost 42-14, will need a much better start to hang with the Flyers.
"We're going to have to try to contain them, bottle them up," Funk said. "We can't allow 21 points in the first quarter like we did last week. You can't expect to do that and win football games. The problem is when you play good football teams, they force mistakes because of their speed and their size.
"If we can take care of the ball and maybe get a couple of key turnovers at the right time, maybe we can be right there to compete with them. But we can't turn the ball over."
Scouting East Side: Funk is impressed by the Flyers' new quarterback, senior Dominic Nelson, and freshman wideout Jeff Thomas. Nelson, a transfer from Cardinal Ritter High in St. Louis, has thrown for 349 yards and three touchdowns in two games. Thomas is a special talent, with 22 catches for 290 yards and two TDs. He also is a threat on punt returns.
"(Nelson) is quick and makes good decisions. He has good receivers," Funk said. "He can run as well, so that's obviously a difficult thing to defend. He's a very good athlete.
"(Thomas) is just ridiculous. That kid can just fly. We've watched him on film and he's really good. Then you look and see he's a freshman and you're like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' I'm not sure I've ever seen a freshman receiver like him in high-school football."
On defense, East Side has three top players in defensive back Taylor, who is headed to Missouri, senior linebacker Kyron Watson, a Kansas recruit, and junior tackle Terry Beckner.
Grinding it out: The Lancers hope to sustain a productive running game against the Flyers. How junior Demarius Ward (66 carries, 353 yards, two TDs) and senior Brandon Mason perform at tailback will determine whether East can move the chains. Mason (broken leg) played his first game last week and had 10 yards on 11 carries.
"He was moving well and felt good before and after the game," Funk said. "He's practiced all week, so hopefully he's close to 100 percent. That will help us out in the long run."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.